Isolation and identification of black yeasts by enrichment on atmospheres of monoaromatic hydrocarbons
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Black yeast members of the Herpotrichiellaceae present a complex ecological behavior: They are often isolated from rather extreme environments polluted with aromatic hydrocarbons, while they are also regularly involved in human opportunistic infections. A selective technique to promote the in vitro growth of herpotrichiellaceous fungi was applied to investigate their ecophysiology. Samples from natural ecological niches and man-made environments that might contain black yeasts were enriched on an inert solid support at low humidity and under a controlled atmosphere rich in volatile aromatic hydrocarbons. Benzene, toluene, and xylene were provided separately as the sole carbon and energy source via the gas phase. The assayed isolation protocol was highly specific toward mesophilic Exophiala species (70 strains of this genus out of 71 isolates). Those were obtained predominantly from creosote-treated railway ties (53 strains), but isolates were also found on wild berries (11 strains) and in guano-rich soil samples (six strains). Most of the isolates were obtained on toluene (43 strains), but enrichments on xylene and benzene also yielded herpotrichiellaceous fungi (17 and 10 isolates, respectively). Based upon morphological characterizations and DNA sequences of the full internal transcriber spacers (ITS) and the 8.5S rRNA genes, the majority of the obtained isolates were affiliated to the recently described species Exophiala xenobiotica (32 strains) and Exophiala bergeri (nine strains). Members of two other phylogenetic groups (24 and two strains, respectively) somewhat related to E. bergeri were also found, and a last group (three strains) corresponded to an undescribed Exophiala species. © 2010 The Author(s).